Here’s my fantastically fun roundup of my October 2017 reads. Short and sweet reviews of each of the 18 books I read this month (I abandoned one other that I was supposed to read for a book discussion but I just COULD NOT get into it). Scroll until you see something you like!
Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
Jamie Ford does it again with the poignant, sweet, historical novel based on the raffling off of a child during the Alaska Yukon Pacific world’s fair in 1909. Yung/Ernest Young is a child brought over as an orphan from China when he is only 5 years old. He is shuffled from orphanages to boarding schools and never adopted since he is mixed-race (half Chinese, half Caucasian). We get to see Ernest’s life from his golden years, as he interacts with his aging wife and grown daughters, and from his childhood, after he is raddled off and subsequently raised in the premier brothel of Seattle. The sense of place, characters, culture, and history, are all so well-developed in this novel. Recommended.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
I picked this up because so many friends loved it, but I probably would have anyway since I loved Storied Life so much. This book isn’t like that at all (ha!), but it is great, and well-written.
I grabbed the audio on Hoopla and really enjoyed the same story told from 4 different perspectives (although when I had only gotten through the first one I was wondering how in the world she was going to fill the rest of the book). The plot of this one centers around a relationship/affair between a congressman and a young – half his age – intern in his office. Aviva Grossman is our main protagonist, but we hear from other people in this drama as well. Definitely enjoyed this and it makes you think twice about who pays the price in a scandal of this sort.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
This one was a bit slow and plodding to me. It drew me in right away and then seemed to throw on the brakes. I think that’s because there really wasn’t that much to say. I liked the juxtaposition of the old letters reminiscing about older memories with the more current events happening now. I did think it was well written, it just didn’t interest me as much as I expected it to after the first 3 pages.
How To Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown
I will hereby admit that I had heard Amena speak before, but not perform, and hadn’t read any previous books. So, I was a fan, but not a lunatic obsessive. In this book, though, she reveals herself and her journey in such vulnerable and beautiful ways, it’s going to be hard to maintain that status. Amena’s writing (about everything from songs that changed her life to the broken records we all play in our heads to the chance to discover her ancestry to the churches she attended and what they meant throughout her life to the loss of a baby and the desire to get pregnant) is poignant and reflective and beautiful without feeling *poignant* and *reflective* and *beautiful*. Instead, it feels more like a dear friend talking to you over coffee, but with a great turn of phrase and depth of feeling.
*I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.*
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Full Cast Audio Play
Listened to the Full Cast audio play (for FREE) on Audible channels. This was a fun way to listen to this one! So many voices, it really brings it to life. Ender as a character and the world building that OSC does during this novel are both fantastic. Ender (Andrew) Wiggin is a child who is basically “bred” to be the next pilot in a war against the species that almost ended humanity the last time they met. As a young child, he is taken from his parents and siblings in order to train to be an army commander. I’m a fan, but despite the setup for the next book at the end, I feel fine leaving this after book 1.
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Finally picked up this book that I, embarrassingly, own in multiple formats… mostly so that I can read his new book, Sacred Parenting, afterwards.
I definitely learned a lot and highlighted a lot and felt convicted by this book, but I also feel that it’s a bit dated and masochistic. Every woman that gets upset is “hysterical”, almost everything is directed towards men (written by a man, so I get why, but still a bit annoying), and quite a few of the personal stories feel like “our marriage is awesome because we’ve worked really hard at chasing after Jesus” from the author. Just a bit annoying.
Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge
Please hold while I finish wiping my eyes and blowing my nose……. (Mary, you didn’t warn me!)………
Okay, ahem. so, Barry goes down in a tiny plane among the Tahitian islands, along with two other passengers and the pilot. He and newly-married Sophie (whose husband went the way of the pilot) wash up on the same shore. Dane Huckelbridge is an amazing writer. His prose is beautiful without being anywhere near overdone or bourgeoisie. He weaves in French speech but doesn’t leave us hanging as to what it means. He creates plot and drama without it feeling like there would be no book without it. Really, this was just masterfully done, but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the crying thing.
100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
I really enjoyed my first read of this series and will definitely seek out the others in time. The whole principle is just so interesting and I love the idea of it being an adventure for a couple of kids. I did think this was going to be more geared toward little kids, but it had plenty of “scary” moments so I will hold off on recommending it to my oldest son for a few more years. Overall, a solid read.
The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard
This historical novel is so well done. Daynard meticulously researched this time in history and it shows! Her main protagonist may be a work of fiction, but her experiences, her scenery, and her character are all closely aligned with early American history, when we first became a country. I really loved the feminine perspective of the way that women contributed to the Revolutionary War from home while their men fought the redcoats. Well done.
I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brene Brown
This book was really timely for me as we are dealing with some neighborhood issues and fallout and the person running the circus uses shame and accusation to get what she wants. It’s super hurtful and harmful for all involved. I’m glad to have listened to this collection of research and observations about shame and resilience right before and during the situation came to a head. Brene Brown asks the hard questions but has the great answers as well. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, this one or The Gifts of Imperfection would be a great one to start with.
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
This is just a lovely, fun read, full of bookish sweetness, a bit of romance and music, and a whole lot of bookshop dreams. Emilia comes home as her father lays dying. She is, of course, left the bookshop that she grew up in, located in the English village of Peasebook. The plot just skips along in this one like a stone on water. Curl up with a cup of tea and enjoy it! Bonus likeability points: main character Emilia plays the cello. ❤
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
With almost 602,000 ratings on Goodreads, there is surely nothing for me to add to this classic. Tom Sawyer is a typical little turd kid. He’s into mischief, distracted by girls, and always seeking adventure. His friendship with Huck Finn is timeless. The prose of the book feels very similar to “the guy version of Anne of Green Gables” to me. Anne is, of course, all of the above as well, so I feel like they make good complements for each other.
Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
This was short and fun and sweet and entertaining! I often feel like I’d like to write a letter to the books i read, or the authors of said books. I’m only knocking down a star because I’m absolutely sure this could have been totally filled with letters in her fun snarky tone instead of the lists at the end of the book, which felt more like fillers. I mean, she’s a librarian, so I get why she feels like she has to curate a collection for us, but the letters were just far more fun. My favorite letter was, absolutely: Dear library in Beauty and the Beast. All the heart eyes for that one!
Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne
I’d put this in the solid 3.5 star range for me. It has all the elements of books I love, but it just didn’t feel like a book I loved or was driven to reach for every day. It felt more like “better get through this one so I can move on to the next!” Frank is only young, but I’d seat this book in the “adorable curmudgeon” camp with regard to his behavior and the way he likes things a certain way. Fans of The Rosie Effect, a Man Called Ove, or Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine should enjoy this one as well.
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This collection of letters from author Helene Hanff to and from Marks&co bookshop in London is just fun and dreamy. Buying classic books across the pond for $1.35, her gushing about how they are the most beautiful books ever, and a 20+ year friendship between not kissy Frank Doel, her primary correspondent, but his co-workers and family. The whole tiny book is just delightful.
In The Woods by Tana French
Definitely enjoyed this one and super excited about the fact that I’ve heard these just get better. I found this story plenty gripping and couldn’t put this one down. Detective Ryan and his partner investigate the murder of a young girl (trigger alert) outside of Dublin. When Ryan was young (before he changed his first name), he was part of a trio of friends in the same area, under investigation because 2 of the 3 disappeared without a trace. The current case brings back plenty of memories for him. Excited to see where this goes in later books.
29 Gifts: How A Month of Giving Can Change Your Life by Cami Walker
I thought this was a short, fun examination of the ways that giving and gratefulness can affect our daily lives and cultivate happier, healthier, more open hearts. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if it weren’t an inexpensive audible deal of the day a few months ago, but I did enjoy it. I’m knocking it down in the rating though for two reasons: 1) while I appreciate that the author saw great changes in her physical health and struggles with MS during her challenge, I was annoyed with her attitude about the entire thing. 2) During this challenge, the author and her husband had to ask for a $16K bailout loan from her parents due to her inability to work regularly and the medical bills that piled up after her diagnosis. Then, every time she hit a milestone of some kind they would “go out to celebrate”. What? Let me tell you how you avoid 16K in unnecessary credit card debt…. stop going out to eat every time you have a good day! -Sorry, I know I’m getting really judgy here-
Of course, those things annoyed me but not enough to not finish this book and be inspired to start my own giving challenge. November starts in two days, and I think that would be the perfect time to move forward with a challenge of this nature.
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
Could not put this one down, even though it seriously screwed with my head for the two days I was reading it! Lincoln and his mom Joan are getting ready to leave the zoo at closing time, and she hears some pops. As they near the exit she sees a man with a gun. Insanity ensues. Gin Phillips takes one of my favorite places (the zoo) and turns it into a scary game of survival. We get to examine the way a mother loves her child and the bond between them in such a unique way. It’s rather astounding. Kept me on the edge of my seat. I was dying to know what happened even as I couldn’t stand to read anymore.